Monday, August 02, 2004

So, Nomar’s gone.

Traded. To the Chicago Cubs in a four way deal. The Sox ended up with a replacement shortstop,Orlando Cabrerra from the Expos and 1st baseman Doug Mientkiewicz from the Twins.

I can’t say it was completely unexpected. Although Nomar said the right things for the most part, it had become obvious that he still harbored resentment over the Red Sox attempt to land Alex Rodriguez last winter. For whatever reason, Nomar was never able to get past that. It had become extremely obvious that the Sox would be unable to sign him to a new contract after the season. Also, you didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Nomar hated the media scrutiny in Boston. Nomar may love being a ballplayer, but he hates being a star and the invasion of privacy that comes with it.

I understand all the logical reasons for trading Nomar. Get something for him before he becomes a free agent. Upgrade the defense - Cabrerra and Meintkewicz are both Gold Glovers. The Sox defense is one of the worst in the league, and they’ve given up an astounding number of unearned runs. Theo Epstein and the rest of the Red Sox brass know as well as anyone that pitching and defense wins in the post season. Nomar, whether as a result of his Achilles tendon injury or mental distraction, has become average, at best, in the field since returning from the disabled list. Kevin Millar and David Ortiz are way below average defensively at first. Once Pokey Reese returns, you have Gold Glove players at 1st base, 2nd base and shortstop, and Bill Mueller is a good defensive 3rd baseman.

The fact that I understand all that doesn’t change the emotional picture, though. I loved watching Nomar play every day. He ran out every hit ball, charged every grounder and never dogged it on the field. He was a great representative of the Boston Red Sox. You could easily see him spending his entire career here, becoming the Ted Williams or Yaz of his generation, a Red Sox icon playing his way to the Hall of Fame.

Why haven’t the Red Sox been able to keep the great players they have developed over the last 20 years and have them end their careers with the team? The last one to do it, as far as I can remember, was Jim Rice. Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn are two good examples of this. What has it been about the Red Sox that eventually turns their greatest players against them and drives them out of town? Is it ownership? The fans? The Boston media? The traffic? I know that a player that spends 20 years with the same team, like Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn, is a rarity these days, but is the problem with MLB in general or the Sox in particular?

Nomar may very well love it in Chicago. The fans and media are much less critical there. When I was at Wrigley Field last year, my brother and I saw a fan wearing a T-shirt with a Cubs logo and the words “...if it takes forever.” printed underneath. I told my brother that a shirt like that would never sell in Boston. The right words might be “I want it now!!!” or “86 years is too bleeping long!” I can easily see Nomar signing with the Cubbies at the end of the year and happily existing in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

I’ll miss Nomar’s funky little mannerisms in the batters box. I’ll miss the way he charges after a ground ball and throws to first without setting his feet. I’ll miss those long throws from the hole at short. I’ll miss the ovations every time he comes to the plate and I’ll miss the way he plays the game.

Good luck, Nomar. Maybe you can break someone else’s curse.


At 9:17 AM, Blogger The Hey said...

Actually, Jim Rice ended his MAJOR league career with the Red Sox, not his baseball career. And not by choice as Mrs. Yawkey didn't want him anymore for some reason. His last baseball stint, as I recall, was with some Single A Florida league team before he hung it up.

Gee, I know something that YOU don't about baseball? ;-)

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Capn Ho said...

Nope, don't remember that Jim Rice ended up in the minors after he left the Sox. Good one, Mr. Hey!



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